A tent has been erected near the emergency department entrance at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY CYNDI WOOD

Mills declares state of emergency as coronavirus cases rise

ELLSWORTH — On Sunday, Governor Janet Mills announced she had signed a civil emergency proclamation in response to the rise in coronavirus cases in Maine. As of Sunday, there were seven confirmed cases in Maine with another five presumed positive.

Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the U.S. CDC has affirmed Maine’s state laboratory, giving it the ability to declare a positive test at its lab a confirmed case. Those cases listed as presumed positive were tests done at an outside laboratory and need only for Maine’s lab to confirm them.

Shah said the 12 cases include a woman in her 50s in Androscoggin County, a woman in her 30s in Lincoln County and 10 people in Cumberland County, ranging from a boy in his teens to a man in his 80s.

“We now have evidence of community transmission occurring in Cumberland County,” Shah said, adding that the Cumberland County cases include “close household contacts” of other cases, and that at least one individual’s infection was contracted in Maine and cannot be linked to travel.

“Community transmission will continue to spread across the state of Maine,” he said.

The Cumberland County cases include a man in 80s and his spouse, who are residents of OceanView at Falmouth, a retirement community.

“Maine CDC released this more detailed identifying information about the case because it could potentially involve community spread. Maine CDC will continue to release such detail when it is appropriate,” Mills said.

The emergency proclamation “authorizes state officials to act quickly to delay and to mitigate a potential outbreak [of coronavirus] in Maine,” she said. “It also unlocks access to critical federal funds that will support our response efforts.”

That means the proclamation will allow Mills to take certain actions such as procuring supplies, mobilizing emergency management agencies and taking steps to protect the economy.

“Social distancing is still the most effective strategy to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Mills said.

To that end, she recommended that public schools end classroom instruction as soon as practical; that hospitals and health care providers postpone elective surgery and other non-urgent care; that long-term care providers prohibit visitors and access from nonessential personnel; and that certain social events be postponed until further notice. Specifically, she recommended canceling any events involving more than 50 people as well as those involving 10 or more people that include someone at higher risk, such as senior citizens.

“Things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better,” Mills said. The actions we take now, both as individuals and a state are our best chance at mitigating a deadly coronavirus coronavirus outbreak in our state.”

Johanna S. Billings

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Johanna S. Billings covers eastern Hancock County and western Washington County. An avid photographer, she lives in Steuben with her husband and several cats. She welcomes tips and story ideas. Email her at [email protected]

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